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What's next for Juan Guaidó & Venezuela?

The state of play is the following: Juan Guaidó, head of Venezuela's Congress, declared himself as caretaker president of the country. Guaidó based his move on an interpretation of article 233 of the Chavista Constitution, that establishes that when an absolute absence ("falta absoluta") happens by swearing in day (10 January), the Head of Congress must take charge and call for fresh elections within 30 days. Given that Nicolas Maduro's last electoral victory was not seen as legitimate, many countries pledged recognition to Guaidó, officially. Other nations have pledged support, while a third group (with billions of dollars of outstanding debt / or reliant on Venezuela's patronage) have thrown their lot with Nicolas Maduro.

As usual, Russia came out with cretinous claims about non-intervention, respect for international law and sovereignty. Vlad is the second largest single creditor of chavismo. China, the largest single creditor, came with their usual BS about opposition to foreign intervention. At stake, there could be 80 billion plus between the two. Maybe more. Then there's Turkey, which has been busy lately positioning itself as a trusted party to Maduro.

Real Donald Trump made an entrance in trademark style, saying his administration no longer recognises Maduro. Guaidó is Venezuela's new president in the eyes of the Trump administration, which has already moved to "all options are on the table" talk. Dialogue with Maduro is a non starter. US-based bondholders will surely be happy about it.

Brazil and Colombia have recognised Guaidó, and so has the Lima Group. Maduro's allies in the continent are limited to the usual pariahs (Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba).

This site has argued in the past about negotiated solutions. This is taken in some quarters as selling out. However all conflicts of similar characteristics have been solved in one of two ways: either through regimented negotiations, or by force. Negotiations, under certain and agreed upon preconditions, are still in our opinion better than the other prospect. Not talking to Maduro will achieve what, exactly? The Lima Group produced a communiqué a few days ago, basically asking Maduro to surrender his position. That's indeed beyond idiotic.

Still on the negotiation side of the argument, there are many things that the coalition behind Guaidó and Guaidó could do, to force Maduro to accept preconditions and conduct a meaningful debate with parties that aren't all under his control (paid stooge Zapatero doesn't count). So Russia has offered to mediate. USG could come to the table on Guaidó's side with the following:

- CFIUS is to reject Rosneft getting nearly half of CITGO as collateral;

- Ukraine-related sanctions against Putin and his cronies / companies could be reviewed;

- Oil export from Venezuela to the US are to be forbidden in 30 days;

- PDVSA and CITGO, and its current boards, are to be sanctioned in 30 days;

- Financial networks and operators that have facilitated Maduro's regime corruption in the past are to be sanctioned in 30 days;

- Venezuelan fugitives (Raul Gorrin, Francisco Convit, and unnamed co- conspirators) are to be handed in to face Justice Department's charges in 30 days;

- Further indictments targetting more corrupt chavistas are to be unsealed in 30 days;

- All official bank accounts held in American banks are to be frozen with immediate effect;

- All Swiss banks that have participated in schemes involving Venezuela and PDVSA are to be declared money laundering concerns before sitting down, such that detailed information on Venezuela-related corruption is handed over to US law enforcement to be used as leverage in negotiation;

- Before sit down, all trading houses, Swiss and Russian-controlled, ought to be demanded by the Justice Department to hand over evidence of any and all deals conducted with PDVSA;

- Gold / equivalent held by the Bank of England is to be seized before sitting down to be used as leverage in negotiation;

- US federal agencies could form a task force with counterparts in Spain, Andorra, Portugal, Canada, France, Switzerland and Lima Group member nations to strip Maduro and his network of all cash and assets before sitting down, to be used as leverage;

- Any violence on behalf of Venezuelan army and Maduro's other partners (Colombian paramilitaries / drug cartels, Cuban intelligence, Russian mercenaries) is to be taken head on by special forces alligned with countries supportive of Guaidó.

With that in hand, Guaidó's side can start talking and detailing preconditions. Amnesties can be offered. Elections, organised by an impartial arbiter within a strictly determined timeframe and under full observation of international parties, could be called. All parties are to agree with whatever results.

These are just some measures, but Venezuelans have to understand that unless a US-led military invasion is in the works, Maduro has to be forced out through negotiation. Rallies and cabildos aren't going to topple him, nor will Twitter. Without Venezuela's army support, Guaidó is as dangerous to chavismo as Leopoldo Lopez under house arrest. He can make all the declarations he wants, but without real power behind it's just noise.

It is foolish and ignorant to think that criminals that are in full control will just relinquish power. Equally, it is puerile to ignore the fact that in most cases, many disgusting folk do get away with their crimes: look at what architect-of-this-disaster Rafael Ramirez was doing today with Bachelet. Beyond revolting, very hard to swallow, but the question is: what are the alternatives? How else can this situation be brought to a close?

Venezuelans baying for chavista blood should be ready to back it up with actions, and we have seen in the recent past how long such positions are held once the National Guard and the collectivos start shooting.

Maduro's hand needs to be forced. Ditto that of the military that supports his regime. It has got to be real prospects of complete and utter financial strangulation, followed by negotiation, and for that to take place silly playground stances that make Putin look good are just not helpful. Most of the Western Hemisphere supports Guaidó, but there's another player there with formidable strenght and allies that needs to be considered. If the opposition could unilaterally solve Venezuela's problems by supported public proclamations, it would have done so many years ago. And, most tragically, Chavismo invited some of the world's worst elements, which have become stakeholders. Failing to recognise that is nothing but flat earth syndrome.


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